Giving the discerning dog owner the "upper paw" on the best products, nutrition and training tips.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Training Tips: How do I stop leash pulling?

Picture source:

We've all been there...your dog is full of energy, pulling you down the street, perhaps wheezing and hacking the entire way, while your neighbors stare at you silently judging.  This experience is frustrating and does not allow your walk to be an enjoyable experience.

Leash pulling is common among many dog owners.  The most common reason a dog pulls and forges ahead on his leash is because it gets him to where he wants to go...plain and simple.  Leash pulling is actually a learned behavior and not an attempt by your dog to assert dominance in your relationship (contrary to popular belief).  If you performed an action that resulted in you achieving your desired result, you would logically keep performing the same behavior.  Your dog is no different.  True, it may be slightly uncomfortable for your dog, but if he wants to sniff that incredibly interesting pee spot a few feet ahead and he achieves success by pulling ahead...then he is going to repeat the same action.

A few other reasons why your dog pulls may be due to lack of exercise and lack of stimulating environment.  If your dog has been cooped up all day without exercise, he is going to be a bundle of energy and have trouble concentrating on you.  His attention is going to focus on more interesting distractions on the walk (i.e. other dogs, exciting smells, bushes to pee on).

Training Tip:  Outlined below is our recommend 5 Step Process for correcting leash pulling

Step 1:  Do you have the correct walking gear? - Before training commences, make sure you have the appropriate leash, collar, or harness for your dog.  The appropriate equipment will not train your dog for you, but will make the experience a little easier and enjoyable.  See our post on "Collars vs. Harnesses:  Which is Best?"  do determine which equipment is best for your dog. Some trainers believe that harnesses encourage pulling.  However, in our experience, if your dog can't breathe using a collar (too much pressure on the windpipe) they won't be able to concentrate on the training.

Step 2:  Be prepared...with treats and patience - When approaching ANY training situation you must be prepared with treats.  We recommend selecting a treat that is soft so that you can easily break the treat into small bites and quickly reward your dog.  Second, use a treat that is new and exciting for your dog to hold his attention.  Have your treats readily accessible so you can reward your dog in the first 3 seconds of him completing the behaviors correctly.  If you wait longer than 3 seconds, you risk losing your dog's connection with understanding the desired behavior.

Step 3:  STOP. - Before going outside for your walk, create a calm and focused environment.  If your dog starts to get overly excited when preparing for the walk, put down the leash and wait for him to calm down.  This is often counter to the way we approach walks when training our dogs as puppies.  Most of us...ourselves included...have approached walks as the most exciting event to ever occur when training our puppies.  This is to make leashes and walks sound fun.  However, when your dog grows up, this overly excited state can create more challenges when it comes to maintaining your dog's focus.

picture and caption  So, remember before you place the leash on your dog make sure he comes to you and is sitting calmly.

Jack ready for his morning walk!

Once the leash is on, walk towards the door.  If your dog pulls before reaching the door, STOP.  You don't need to verbalize any commands, simply stop moving.  Do not pull back on the leash, just be frozen.  This will probably surprise your dog at first, however, this is desired so we can capture his attention.  

Once your dog moves back and allows slack in the leash, proceed to move forward.  Once your dog begins pulling again, STOP, wait for slack in the leash again, and then move forward.  Your dog will quickly learn he only gets to move forward when there is a neutral leash and no pressure on the lead.

Step 4:  Praise - When your dog comes back to you or walks close to you with a neutral leash, actively reward with treats and praise.  

Step 5:  Be Consistent - As long as you are consistent with any training, leash pulling included, you will achieve success.  It is key to stop moving EVERY time your dog pulls.  Allowing your dog to pull even once out of ten times, will send a conflicting message.  If you have a dog walker or family member who regularly walks your dog, share the same message and ensure they are also practicing a consistent method. 

Be prepared that this will likely take several days to a couple of weeks for your dog to completely stop pulling on the leash.  He will continue to test the limits to see whether pulling will still result in getting him what he desires.  Be positive and stick with it!

Happy walking!!


A & A

Check us out on Facebook for more tips and pup love!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Giving Back: PAWS Run For Their Lives Event

Last Sunday, we participated in the PAWS Chicago Run For Their Lives Event.  We love this event for so many reasons.  For starters, you get to hang out with your pup, meet new friends and fellow animal lovers, experience amazing vendors, and savor a frosty brew...ALL while enjoying a beautiful day along Lake Michigan.

Enjoying the day with our boys!!
This year Run For Their Lives experienced a record turn out, raising more funds towards achieving the ultimate goal of making Chicago a No Kill City for homeless animals.

As a participant you could sign up for the 8K run or the dog-friendly 4K walk.  The walk was a bit more our speed and allowed for plenty of doggie socializing!

A Beautiful Day

Our good friend Stacy with her pup, Chloe

We feel it is important to highlight events, such as PAWS Chicago Run For Their Lives.  With the challenges of today's economy, many pet owners are experiencing financial hardships resulting in a negative impact on our pets.  For many pet owners this means forgoing basic healthcare needs, spay/neuter procedures, and even abandonment.  However, thanks to organizations like PAWS Chicago, there is help and support.  In 2012, PAWS Chicago performed over 18,000 free and low-cost spay/neuter procedures for pets all over Chicago.  They also successfully placed over 5,000 pets in loving homes.  In addition, recent natural disasters have left many beloved pets lost and homeless.  After the Oklahoma tornado disaster on May 20th, 16 volunteers from PAWS Chicago made multiple trips to the Oklahoma City Animal Care & Control Center to rescue a total of 76 pets.  A truly amazing feat.

Rescued from the rubble in Oklahoma

It is important to help these animals in need and to help place them in loving homes.  This is why organizations, such as PAWS Chicago, are so essential to the mission of saving pet lives.

Excited to join a new family!
We urge you to volunteer at your local shelter or become involved in any way possible to help educate your community and save lives!


A & A

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Healthy Tips: Pet Grass from your Local Farmer's Market

Spring is in full swing here in Chicago.  Hopefully, it is where you live too!

During the spring and summer months, we love going to local farmer's markets in and around Chicago.  They are full of local delights ranging from organic produce, fresh flowers, and bespoke treats.  Going to the market can also be enjoyable for your canine pal.  Our dogs love the socialization, the excitement of new and interesting scents in the air, as well as, the likely chance they will receive a special treat.

One of our favorite local markets is the Green City Market located in Chicago's historic Lincoln Park neighborhood.  During the summer, we do a great deal of our weekly grocery shopping here and always enjoy experiencing new vendors.  One vendor we always visit is the wheat grass station.  We order a wheat grass shot for ourselves and then purchase some pet grass for our pups.  The pet grass comes in a little tray, approximately 6x6 square inches, and contains grass from root to tip.

Green City Market in Chicago

From our local wheat grass vendor

We love this treat because it serves both a nutritional and entertainment purpose.  Our first impetus for purchasing the pet grass was to deter our French Bulldog, Franklin, from getting into the flower pots.  We had planted herbs and flowers outside on our deck and this seemed to always be an area of interest for Franklin.  Once we introduced him to the pet grass we were able to provide him with a nutritious and entertaining snack, which made both of us happy!

You may still be asking...what is pet grass?  Pet grass is wheat grass, which is free from chemicals and pesticides present in many of our lovely manicured lawns and houseplants.  This particular grass is rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can promote development of blood and muscle tissue, as well as, healthy digestion.

So next time you are at your local farmer's market, be sure to try out some pet grass.  We know Franklin would agree!

Mmm!!  Franklin Loves his Pet Grass!!


A & A